The British Royal Air Force (RAF) has received the first submarine-hunting Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) at a military base in Scotland after being flown from the US.
Named the ‘Pride of Moray’, the aircraft is the first of a new £3bn programme that includes the purchase of nine Poseidon jets, which are expected to improve the ability of the UK to track hostile targets below and above the waves.
The first Poseidon aircraft arrived at Kinloss Barracks, a former RAF station. It will temporarily operate from Kinloss until October while the planned £75m runway and taxiway resurfacing project is being completed by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation at Lossiemouth.
The UK’s purchase of the Poseidon comes in response to increased threats such as Russian submarine activity in the Atlantic returning to Cold War levels. China is also investing heavily in new Arctic facilities and infrastructure, as well as ice-capable ships.
Poseidon will be central to Nato missions across the North Atlantic, working with the US and Norwegian Poseidon fleet and protecting the UK’s continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent.
UK Armed Forces Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Our Poseidon fleet will soon join an integrated UK force of fighter jets, ships, submarines, helicopters and highly-trained Royal Marines, ready to operate in Arctic conditions.
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“RAF Lossiemouth’s strategic northerly location makes it one of the most important air stations in the UK: already home to half of the UK’s Typhoon Force, and now sitting at the heart of our anti-submarine operations.”
Designed to carry out extended surveillance missions at high and low altitudes, the aircraft carries sonobuoys, which are dropped into the sea in search of enemy submarines.
The sensors use high-resolution area mapping to search for both submarines and surface vessels.
Additionally, the maritime patrol aircraft is armed with Harpoon anti-surface ship missiles and Mk 54 torpedoes that can attack surface and sub-surface targets.
The RAF will receive all nine Poseidons by the end of next year and achieve full operational capability from Lossiemouth in 2024.
Initially, the aircraft will be flown by the anti-submarine warfare squadron 120 Squadron, and 201 Squadron will join the programme in due course.